Over the last year, our family travels have us via plane, train, cruise ship, water taxi, regular taxi, Uber car, London black cab, and gondola across 8 countries and 35 cities. As wonderful and wild as all those adventures have been, we have also tried to focus some wanderings in our Northwest backyard.
Nine years ago, our family of four moved to the lush land of Seattle; however most of our vacations took us from airport to airport. As the last year of my travel sabbatical unfolded from grand adventures to daily routines, there was more time to explore locally.
Below is Part 2 of our Northwest Nature Nerding (see Part 1 here):
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Among its many great travel options, Seattle also has numerous islands and cities within ferry distance. Heading to Victoria (the capital of British Columbia) for an overnight visit took it to another level as we would be traveling on the Victoria Clipper, a 300+ passenger high-speed ferry. With passports in hand, we made our way to the Clipper docks before 8 a.m. and crossed the water into British Columbia – a mere 60 miles away from the Seattle docks.
The Clipper is no ordinary ferry as it offers plush seats and, yes please, a bar. The seating is done by groups based on when you bought your tickets so it was a bit of a mad dash to grab four seats but we were aided by a crew member and were soon eating Ellenos Greek yogurt (how had I lived without this?) and watching the waves as we sped along at 40 knots. It took three hours to get to Victoria (compared to 4-6 driving).
Growing up in a desert, I never developed a green thumb in the land of cacti and gravel. While I can’t list any of the floral names around me, I do have an appreciation for that purple stuff and those really cool white bunchy-things. Victoria is known as “The Garden City” and the Butchart Gardens had long been on my list of places to visit, and it didn’t disappoint.
The Gardens were started by the Butchart family more than 100 years ago as a way to make use of the land remaining after exhausting limestone deposits from the family business. Grandson Ian Ross was given the gardens on his 21st birthday and he spent the next 50 years making it into a well-known floral destination. (As a side note, I’m pretty sure I got a $5 bill from my grandfather for my birthday until I turned 21.)
Getting my pre-teen kids to enjoy an afternoon in the flowers was made easier when we handed them their phones and told them to be photographers. It was interesting to see what made them stop. For Zack, it was the Japanese gardens while Brady was decidedly more English garden. I was mesmerized by colors of the spring tulips and listening to the chatter of the diverse, global travelers.
Tea for Two
Victoria has a population of 80,000 and the city feels like a friendly neighborhood. We loved wandering the (very clean) streets of Victoria, stopping in a breakfast diner, bookstore, and along Chinatown.
However to fully embrace the Victorian spirit, a high tea was in order.
Having grown up with brothers and having sons, it’s a rare treat to indulge in such dainty pleasures. I was happily surprised when 10-year-old Brady wanted to join me so we went to the Fairmont Empress Hotel.
We noshed on the carb-filled goodness of finger sandwiches, scones, thick cream and jam, and fruit-infused tea. We were surrounded with all different ages and groups of women and I was especially proud of our impromptu mother-son outing.
History with a Non-American View
Full of cucumber sandwiches, we took a stroll through history at the Royal BC Museum. It’s always illuminating to see museums outside of the American point-of-view and the Royal BC had a great section on living languages of the First People (a.k.a. Native Americans).
This interactive exhibit set out to capture the dying languages of the tribes and celebrated the “language keepers” of this generation. It was humbling to think how much has been eroded from modern language, not to mention what the ancestors would think of modern communication via emoji.
We explored the history of the area, by land and sea, and then wandered our way back to the Clipper. Our quick exploration was enough to give us a greater appreciation for our Canadian neighbor and to experience the refined elegance of Victoria, which is now on the Nerd Return List.
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